When I was 8 years old, my parents went through a divorce.  I didn’t have the skill set at that age to handle it and despite the fact that I was  a very active girl who loved sports and dancing, I dealt with it by not caring about anything, including myself.  That’s when I stopped moving.      

Eighth grade was another formative time in my life.  It was a competition of who looked better and who dressed better, and I spent the better portion of that time getting bullied and trying to make myself fit in.  To make matters even more difficultbecause I suffer from a hearing condition also had to endure the questioning of what “those things” were (hearing aids) in my ears. Then dealing with body image issues plus semi-puberty was just the rotten cherry on top.

But the summer of 2011, before my freshman year of high school, I decided I was going to “reinvent” myself.  But probably not in the way that you’re thinking.  Because I went from being a girl that never worried about how she looked or what she wore, to being “that girl.”  The girl with the right clothes, the right shoes, the right body. 

Going shopping that summer, I remember looking at myself in the dressing room mirror with size 8 pants on and just feeling so ashamed of my body. Thoughts ran through my mind like “thunder thighs” and “pot belly.”  I was 14 at the time, so I was too young to join the gym. I decided to go jogging. I remember my first jog—not even 15 seconds and I was already out of breath. That was it for the summer.

Junior year was when I hit rock bottom—the piling stress from school, national honor society, leadership, preparing for the SAT and ACT, and loads of homework on top of that. My first class started at 7:20AM and my last class ended at 2:00PM. I never had a break. I started gaining more weight and losing more energy. I kept putting myself down because I never liked the number on the scale and the image of myself. I thought the solution would be to just eat less and drink detox juices. Although I lost 9 pounds in only one week, I didn’t see the physical change, or any change at all really - just the number on the scale. I kept feeling like I failed myself.

I still encounter days where I want to give up. I look at myself in the mirror not pleased with what I see, but then I remember that my body is and always will be a work in progress.

Senior year— this year—is when I really decided to start a healthy lifestyle journey. Prom was a huge motivator, as well as the continuing peer pressure. By the middle of October last year, I decided to start not my New Year’s resolution, but my New Year’s revolution (except it was 2 months earlier). I was going to revolutionize my health, my mind, my body, and myself.

I started going to the gym more.  In fact, I actually started going everyday, and instead of creating a routine of what I was going to do everyday, I decided to just go and let my body do what it felt. As long as I was doing something, I felt satisfied. Moving created a flow of energy, not just throughout my body, but also through my mind.

The thing is though, it didn’t just become about being fit and healthy; it became about learning to accept my body and be comfortable with it. I mean, we all have one, and the way you take care of it is up to you. We’re all human beings; we’re all born the same way. There should be no judgment, but rather acceptance, and not only of each other, but of ourselves. 

Today, I am happy and healthy. I accept my body for the way it is and for the places it can take me. Everyday is a new challenge and I’ll always push harder whether it’s on a bike or on foot. This journey isn’t just for prom or satisfying the peer pressure anymore; it’s for me. I still encounter days where I want to give up, and look at myself in the mirror and not pleased with what I see, but then I remember that my body is and always will be a work in progress.

As I graduate in June, I plan to continue this journey and hope to inspire others in believing in movement as a way to grow positively and confidently. I believe that if you’re always moving, you’re always improving.